“Santa” Steve Carell And His Elves Retool Christmas, 2020-Style, In Craig Gillespie-Directed Xfinity Short Film

Steve Carell plays Santa Claus leading an elf reinvention of Christmas in The Greatest Gift, the latest long-form ad Xfinity TV and broadband.

The division debuted a two-minute version of the short film on NBC’s broadcast of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, with a three-and-a-half-minute version going online right afterward. (Watch the longer one above.) The branding effort is following the pattern established with last Thanksgiving’s popular mini-reboot of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.

Craig Gillespie, director of I, Tonya and upcoming Disney release Cruella, took the helm for the spot, which depicts a last-minute reworking of the Christmas ritual. The tumultuous events of 2020, from -19 to the presidential election to racial unrest, necessitate a change to the usual approach to the holidays. “After the year we’ve had, the usual gifts just aren’t going to cut it,” Santa informs a group of elves via a videoconference.

With time running out before Christmas Eve, the elves wrack their brains for a solution before inspiration finally strikes. They hit on the idea to give the spirit of the holidays itself, expressed through experiences like snowball fights and the smell of grandma’s cooking instead of physical objects.

Supertramp’s 1974 song “Dreamer,” reinterpreted by the band’s lead singer, Roger Hodgson, plays during the second half of the film as the sentiments of the season boxed up and loaded into Santa’s sleigh.

Ad agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners teamed with Gillespie and production company MJZ to produce the film.

“The holidays are really about moments of togetherness with the people you love, and serve as a reminder for what’s most important, especially given the hardships of this past year,” Carell said. “I hope that this sweet little story will bring a bit of cheer.”

Gillespie saluted Carell for his performance. “He brought the heart, warmth and humor that is the magic of this spot,” he said, adding that it is “rare to have such a special project come along. Being able to collaborate with the agency and craft a message borne of this particular moment that captures a longing for togetherness was very gratifying.”

The commercial campaign is designed to do more than plug pay-TV and broadband. Xfinity has also launched a Pinterest activation called The Greatest Gift Shoppe, which aims to help keep families connected with activities like “blanket-fort” designs, holiday movie recommendations and other tips. Xfinity’s X1 platform and Flex broadband video offering have added custom voice commands like “holiday movies,” “holiday music,” “the greatest gift,” “togetherness” and a few more.

Todd Arata, SVP of Brand Marketing at Comcast, noted that the internet in 2020 “has kept us more connected than ever, allowing us to do more than we thought possible, in the face of less-than-ideal circumstances.”

After the holiday charm offensive, Comcast plans to implement rate increases in 2021 covering a range of TV and internet services. (AT&T has announced similar increases.) A 1.2-terabyte monthly data cap is also going to be expanded to Comcast’s full 39-state footprint.

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